Maryland’s senators approved a bill on Tuesday that would ban polystyrene foam food containers and cups starting next year.
If the bill eventually becomes law, Maryland would be the first state to enact a ban on the products. Some local governments in Maryland — most recently Anne Arundel County — have banned them.
The Senate vote of 34-13 came after days of off-and-on debate, with many Republicans raising concerns that the ban would cause difficulty or increased expenses for farmers, small businesses and nonprofit organizations.
They also questioned how much the ban would do to reduce litter and improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Sen. Adelaide Eckardt said she lives at the headwaters of a creek in Cambridge and regularly picks up litter, but rarely finds foam cups or containers.
Making Maryland "foam free" and curbing the cost of prescriptions are among the priorities Democrats in the General Assembly say they've agreed in principle to push for this session. Under their proposals, Maryland could become the first state to ban polytyrene packaging, better known as Styrofoam.
“We attempt to clean it up to the best of our ability, but I do not believe that banning the polystyrene that we’ve been talking about is going to impact all that trash,” said Eckardt, who was among half a dozen Republicans who spoke against the bill.
Sen. Bryan Simonaire, an Anne Arundel County Republican, voted for the ban, saying he contacted the school system in Montgomery County — where is already a foam ban — and learned the district is saving money after switching to nonfoam containers.
“It was actually cheaper. You have to look at the facts,” Simonaire said.
Proponents of the ban, including sponsor Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat, say the products are not recyclable and don’t break down in the environment, making them a particularly difficult form of litter to deal with.
The ban would be effective July 1, 2020.
A version of the foam ban is pending in the House of Delegates. It’s sponsored by Del. Brooke Lierman, a Baltimore Democrat.